Animal heroes from around the UK to receive awards

Animal heroes from around the UK to receive awards
Monday, 15 October, 2018
London, England

Animal heroes will tomorrow (Tuesday) receive prestigious awards for their outstanding work from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (

IFAW’s annual Animal Action Awards ceremony will be hosted at the House of Lords by Baroness Gale and presented by naturalist and broadcaster Bill Oddie.

This year’s winners include Norfolk couple Christine (Chris) and George Rockingham who have been rescuing neglected and injured animals for more than 24 years at their sanctuary and currently care for more than 1,400 animals. Also receiving an award will be Londoner Michel Birkenwald, who has created 100 ‘hedgehog highways’ in his local community to help hedgehogs navigate to new areas to forage.

Philip Mansbridge, UK Director of IFAW, said: “It’s an honour to be able to highlight the fantastic work carried out by all of the winners of IFAW’s 2018 Animal Action Awards. Each story is inspirational and we hope that these examples will encourage others to do all they can to help protect animals.”

This year’s Animal of the Year Award goes to assistance dog Ralph, who changed the life of Hertfordshire man Paul Phillips, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury and was paralysed from the chest down after a car crash six years ago. After having fallen into a deep depression, Paul was paired with Golden Retriever Ralph by the UK charity Canine Partners two years ago. Since then, Ralph has provided Paul with constant companionship and purpose, assisting him with all kinds of daily tasks and enabling him to move into his own flat. Paul is now able to venture out with Ralph in an off-road wheelchair and enjoy nature again, something he didn’t have the confidence to attempt alone before.

Also honoured is Debbie Bailey, from Derbyshire, for her work protecting badgers from inhumane culls through vaccination. Receiving awards alongside Debbie will be Michelle Clark, from London, who set up a not-for-profit charity that provides care for homeless people and their dogs, as well as Nigel and Sarah Hicks, from Cornwall, who have volunteered to help save injured and orphaned orangutans in Borneo for nearly 10 years and set up their own charity to help raise awareness and vital funds for veterinary equipment.

Awards will also be presented to Chloe Hennegan, from the West Midlands, for her work to rehome more than 1,000 mistreated rabbits and Trisha Shaw, from Warwickshire, for her years of tireless volunteering and fundraising for her local dog rescue centre. Natalia Doran, from London, is honoured for running a rehabilitation centre for abandoned squirrels from her home, as well as campaigning to stop cruel squirrel culling in the UK.  


For more information, photos or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling at IFAW on mobile 07917 507717 or email


Stock photos of award winners are available in advance and photos from the ceremony, which lasts from 12 noon until 2pm, will be available shortly after.


Notes to Editors:

Animal Action Awards are sponsored by the Express newspaper.

If you would like to nominate someone for an Animal Action Award for 2019 please write to: IFAW Animal Action Awards, 87-90 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7UD.


About IFAW

Founded in 1969, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a global non-profit organisation that protects animals and the places they call home. With offices in 15 countries and projects in over 40, we rescue, rehabilitate and release animals into secure landscapes around the world. In collaboration with both governments and local communities, our experienced campaigners, legal and political experts, and internationally acclaimed scientists pioneer lasting solutions to some of the most pressing animal welfare and wildlife conservation issues of our time.


See below for additional background on winners, awards and regions:


LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: CHRISTINE (CHRIS) AND GEORGE ROCKINGHAM. Chris (72) and George (79), from Hingham in Norfolk, have been rescuing animals for more than 24 years, having set up their all-animal sanctuary PACT in 1994. Since its inception, PACT has grown from a sanctuary for 100 animals to a charity that now cares for more than 1,400 animals at any one time, from horses to hedgehogs, guinea pigs and peacocks. In 2006, PACT opened its Henry Hallam Therapy Centre, a renovated barn that houses friendly animals for people with physical and learning disabilities to interact with in a relaxed environment. Last year, Chris and George rescued nearly 2,500 animals and responded to 640 emergency call-outs with their 24-hour Animal Ambulance.

LOCAL CONSERVATION AWARD: MICHEL BIRKENWALD. Michel (62), from Barnes, South West London, first began creating ‘hedgehog highways’ after discovering that the UK hedgehog population had dipped from more than 30 million in the 1950s to less than one million today. Realising that a big challenge for hedgehogs in urban areas is the problem of navigating past walls to new areas to forage, he decided to help by creating a hedgehog highway - encouraging local residents to allow him to drill a hedgehog-sized hole in their garden walls to make paths for them. So far he has drilled around 100 hedgehog holes and hopes that in time local authorities will take hedgehog highways into account in their planning process.

ANIMAL OF THE YEAR AWARD: RALPH THE DOG. Paul Phillips (26), from St Albans, Hertfordshire, was just 20 when a car crash left him with a severe spinal cord injury and paralysed from the chest down. Paul faced a life of 24-hour care living at his parents and he quickly fell into a deep depression. However, after finding Canine Partners, a UK charity which pairs disabled people with suitable assistance dogs, he attended an open day two years ago where he met Golden Retriever Ralph, and an instant bond was formed. As well as providing companionship, three-year-old Ralph assists Paul with daily tasks at home such as fetching remote controls, picking up dropped items and helping remove his jacket by tugging the sleeve with his mouth when given a special command. The new freedom of having an assistance dog enabled Paul to move into his own flat and get out and about to enjoy nature again, something he didn’t have the confidence to attempt alone.

BRITISH WILDLIFE AWARD: DEBBIE BAILEY. Debbie (51), from Furness Vale, Derbyshire, first began protecting badgers in 2012 when she volunteered for The Badger Trust. After learning about the threat badgers faced from the cruel practice of culling, Debbie set up the UK’s largest badger vaccination programme with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust in 2014. Debbie was recently granted more than £180,000 in funding by the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), over the next four years, to help her and her team significantly expand the project. To date, the project has more than 100 volunteers and 16 qualified vaccinators and has vaccinated over 500 British badgers.

PEOPLE AND ANIMALS AWARD: MICHELLE CLARK. After six years running a street outreach programme to help homeless people and their dogs, Michelle (49), from Enfield, London, had a life-changing experience with one homeless man who collapsed with serious illness and begged her to take care of his dog Poppy. The trust shown by Poppy’s owner and the concern for his dog’s welfare drove Michelle to set up her voluntary run, not-for-profit organisation Dogs on the Streets (DOTS). With a small team of volunteers, Michelle began operating DOTS sessions weekly in London, offering everything from dog care and treatment to supplying food for both dogs and their owners. Michelle also continues to lobby hard, with success in most instances, for dogs to be taken in to hostels and other accommodation for homeless people with their owners.

INTERNATIONAL CONSERVATION AWARD: NIGEL AND SARA HICKS. With a life-long passion for orangutans, Nigel (69), and Sara Hicks (55), from Launceston, Cornwall, began volunteering with orangutans in Borneo in 2009 after Nigel, a large animal vet for 25 years, sold his veterinary practice. They have since spent at least six months of every year volunteering at orangutan rescue and rehabilitation facilities in both Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo. Their work involves a mix of veterinary treatment and general care for orphaned and sick orangutans which are brought to the centres, often suffering severe trauma from their experiences of deforestation, forest fires, human animal conflict and the pet trade. In 2016 they set up their own small charity, OVAID (Orangutan Veterinary Aid) to raise awareness and fundraise to provide veterinary equipment to any of the Borneo orangutan rescue centres that need it.

SMALL MAMMAL AWARD: CHLOE HENNEGAN. Aircraft engineer Chloe (43), from the West Midlands, set up her rabbit rescue and rehabilitation centre Fat Fluffs 10 years ago. To date, Chloe and her team has cared for and rehomed more than 1,000 mistreated and abandoned rabbits. Chloe also helps to educate the local community on the best way to look after rabbits, visiting children at local schools and community centres to work towards a better understanding of their needs and responsible ownership.

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD: TRISHA SHAW. Trisha Shaw (50), from Warwick, Warwickshire, began volunteering for her local dog charity Pawprints as a dog walker in 2014. In recent years Trisha has selflessly raised thousands of pounds for Pawprints, allowing them to continue their work rescuing and caring for unwanted dogs. In 2016, Trisha was the recipient of the Britain Has Spirit award, receiving £25,000 which she donated to Pawprints to help cover veterinary bills and operational costs. In 2017, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Trisha shaved her head to help raise money for one of Pawprint’s seriously ill dogs. She raised more than £2,500 and has continued to volunteer at Pawprints since her diagnosis.

ANIMAL ADVOCATE AWARD: NATALIA DORAN. In 2015 Natalia (54), from Wandsworth, London, set up Urban Squirrels, a licensed squirrel rescue that specialises in taking in abandoned and orphaned baby squirrels for rehabilitation and release. Natalia knows that grey squirrels are one of Britain’s most misrepresented animals, due to their status as a non-native species and their perceived threat to trees. She works tirelessly towards changing the general public’s perception of them and often lends her voice to campaigns to stop squirrel culling, speaking at public events and in the media. To date, Natalia has rescued and released more than 30 squirrels back into the wild.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
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Faye Cuevas, Esq.
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Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
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